Pitt Women's Basketball
Lance White and Pitt Are Eager For Tonight’s City Game
After a one-year hiatus, there is a return of The City Game as Pitt and Duquesne Women’s Basketball Teams will lace up its sneakers for an 8 p.m. contest Saturday at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse.
Pitt fifth-year forward Mary Dunn, grew up around this game, given she is the daughter of longtime WPIAL basketball coach Joe Dunn.
This will be her first experience playing in a contest that has a special place in her heart.
“I always grew up thinking it was the coolest thing ever, so having the opportunity to play in it is just amazing,” she said. “I’m super excited, Duquesne’s a really good team and we’re a really good team. It should be a good game.”
As a team, Pitt is coming off a 92-41 victory over LIU and now are 3-0 on the season, now playing with 12 players with Dayshanette Harris’s return to the court.
In the win, Pitt once again saw each player grab a rebound and no one played more than 23 minutes, which means it will have fresh legs for Saturday’s game.
Thus far, Pitt has shown the capabilities of being a player-led team where the standard is the highest it has been in the Lance White era.
How that success will translate to a game Pitt has lost nine of 11 meetings between the teams will play out Saturday night.
“I think it will be a great test for us,” said White. “Going into that, you can throw records out the window and now it becomes that rivalry game. Dan (Burt) does such a great job with their team, and now we have to be ready to handle a great atmosphere and have the composure to go into a hostile environment. That will be really good for our team and our kids to have to play this game. I’m really excited that we are able to do it.”
On Duquesne’s end, it is off to a 1-2 start to this season, after losing a 77-76 matchup at Longwood on Wednesday. Duquesne’s undoing was a 24-7 first-quarter setback, though it did lead twice, briefly in the fourth quarter.
Duquesne had a steal and shot to win that game, but it was off the mark.
This Duquesne squad has battled injuries, most notably with Halle Bovell, Diamond Bragg, Amanda Kalin, Lauren Wasylson and Olivia Westphal all off the court, plus Libby Bazelak and Laia Sole both playing at less than 100%.
At the moment, Duquesne is primarily using a seven-person rotation with Natalija Sekulovska and Snezhe Serefimoska also seeing court time.
After a slow start, transfer Fatou Pouye has been Duquesne’s leading scorer coming off the bench, while both Megan McConnell and Tess Myers have both achieved early-season success.
A win in the City Game could be something that could give Duquesne some momentum towards the remainder of non-conference play as the Dukes work to become a healthier unit.
DUNN BUILDING CONFIDENCE
As Mary Dunn steps onto the practice court, she maintains that her on-court opponent is the best she has played in her entire career.
Given Rita Igbokwe’s emergence, Amber Brown’s consistency, Taisha Exanor’s rebounding ability, Liatu King’s grittiness, Maliyah Johnson’s growth and Tracey Hueston’s growing confidence, it is understandable why she feels that way.
It is that group mentality that makes Dunn feel that finding a role has been easy.
“It’s more that every day I have to bring it myself,” she said. “It’s a big change for me, but at the same time, I can see it working and I can see us producing, so that’s all that matters to me.”
In the LIU win, Dunn established a post presence scoring eight points, successfully making all four field goals she attempted, including a one-handed tip-in which drew postgame praise from White.
Still White believes there is plenty of room to grow and with her mere feet away, offered a challenge.
“She is a great three-point shooter and we need her to shoot those,” said White. “When she gains that confidence and know that’s what we need, she’s going to let it go and knock them down.”
It was clear that this was not something that surprised the forward as she nodded in approval with each word.
So is that challenge accepted?
Saturday may be the first step in finding that answer.
“My confidence has definitely gone up, I just need to put it into play sometimes,” Dunn said. “Having such a supportive coach is really what’s building that confidence, and now I’ve just got to build it myself.”